Thomas Fuller, an enslaved man stolen from the western shores of Africa at 14 and sold to a Virginia farm in 1724, had a gift.
His capacity to tabulate large sums astonished his captors, especially given the rumors surrounding what an education might do to a slave.
Out of fear that knowledge would empower slaves to rebel, laws known as slave codes forbid Fuller to learn to read or write.
And since he was never formally educated in ENGLISH, white people dismissed his genius.
Their prejudice never allowed them to consider that Africans could be both naturally gifted and come from learned communities in their countries of origin.
Still, Fuller found ways to overcome their restrictions.
As a farm assistant, he honed his analytical skills by counting the hairs on cow tails, managing inventory, and even dabbling in complex astronomical arithmetic.
Soon word spread that a Black enslaved man, dubbed “The Virginia Calculator,” could solve any math problem you threw his way within seconds.
Sadly, he was still thought to be an anomaly and most treated him as no more than a sideshow to gawk at.
It’s a shame that Fuller’s intellect posed such a threat. Imagine what he might have accomplished over his 80 years of life had his mathematical aptitude not been suppressed by the racism of his day.